March 09, 2007

"416 megapixels ought to be enough for anybody…"

I wonder if that statement will sound laughably outdated someday.  Until then, the new 416MP scanning back from Better Light is mighty impressive. According to CNET, each 2-minute exposure generates a 794MB file that can provide 300 pixel-per-inch resolution for a poster measuring 34" x 45"–all for a cool 23 grand.  Put that in your Flickr account and smoke it. [See also 160 megapixels or bust.]

Posted by John Nack at 9:36 AM on March 09, 2007


  • BWJones — 10:35 AM on March 09, 2007

    Hrmmmm. What better use for Photoshop Extended and a new MacPro than single exposures weighing in at 794MBs. My question is how are the image files encoded? Tiff? Jpg? RAW?
    [Beats me, but I’m guessing that to get that resolution into that number of MBs, the data is either raw or lossy-compressed. –J.]

  • Mark Allanson — 12:33 PM on March 09, 2007

    More like… put that in your Photoshop and watch the smoke pour out of your PC :)

  • keith — 12:58 PM on March 09, 2007

    Can I use my new Sigma zoom-o lens? Yea the 88-pounder one.

  • Brian — 1:37 PM on March 09, 2007

    Why are these type of backs so ridiculously expensive? It’s basically just a nice flatbed scanner with a clever camera connection instead of glass, right? A nice (enough for me) flatbed can be had for under $1,000. Where’s the extra money go?
    [Well, it’s a question of time, skills, and motivation. Sure, I could change my own oil, but I don’t. Many people *could* build their own Web sites, yet they pay other people to do it. A (much) smaller subset *could* build their own scanning back cameras, but maybe they’d rather be out taking pictures than in a shop with a soldering iron. It’s kind of like my comments about the price of Photoshop: it’s all relative to the amount of value you derive from it. –J.]

  • Tony — 9:35 PM on March 14, 2007

    The scanners native resolution is only 10200×13600 that would be around 138ish MPixel, no? I would be shocked if a scanback of this type did any interpolating. At that resolution its not much better than the PhaseOne F/X scan back, which has been out for a few years now.
    The other thing that I’d call into question is the quality of the image at that 2-minute exposure. More than likely that is at the scanners rated maximum light sensitivity of ISO 1000, which I would suspect be very noisy.
    The PhaseOne F/X /can/ operate at a ISO sensitivity above 100, but it starts to exibit an unacceptable amount of noise. Scan times are increased to around 8 minutes. I would suspect the same would happen with the BetterLight scanbacks.
    If our PhaseOne is any indication, the BetterLight will provide uncompressed tiff images.
    Lastly, as for why one would get a back like this instead of creating your own? Image accuracy. Is it possible to piece together a flatbed scanner and a large-format body? Most definately. Will it give you a flawless image that will pass the standards in our labs? Nope. You get what you pay for. It all depends on what your intended use is. I’ll create archival-quality images or rare materials, so the accuracy is needed. If you’re taking a picture of Half Dome for fun, then not so much. Same reason some flatbed scanners cost several thousand dollars, while some are under a hundred.

  • Barry Pearson — 12:08 AM on March 15, 2007

    In response to the question “My question is how are the image files encoded? Tiff? Jpg? RAW?”:
    They must surely use raw, because the Viewfinder software they supply can convert to DNG, from version 7.2. (Better Light are one of the manufacturers who provide their own DNG converter rather than expect Adobe to supply it).
    [Thanks for the details, Barry. –J.]

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